Chewsday-August 12th

On this day in 1860 Klara Polzl was born in the Austrian village of Spital. Less than thirty years later, she would give birth to Adolf Hitler.

Klara Polzl had several children during her life, but only Adolf and his sister Paula would survive into adulthood. Klara Hitler first discovered a lump in her breast in 1905, two years after her husband’s death, but initially ignored it. After experiencing chest pains that were keeping her awake at night, Klara finally consulted the family doctor, Eduard Bloch (a Jew), in January 1907. Dr. Bloch told Adolf that Klara had a small chance of surviving and recommended that she undergo a radical surgery. The Hitlers were devastated by the news. Klara underwent the mastectomy at Sisters of St. Mercy in Linz whereupon the surgeon, Dr. Karl Urban, discovered that the cancer had already moved to her chest. Dr. Bloch informed Klara’s children that her condition was terminal.

For the next 46 days (from November to early December), Dr. Bloch performed daily treatments of experimental chemotherapy. Klara’s mastectomy incisions were reopened and massive doses of iodoform soaked gauze was applied directly to the tissue to “burn” the cancer cells. The treatments proved to be futile and Klara died at home in Linz from the toxic medical side effects. Despite her death, Adolf pledged his gratitude forever to their family doctor. Even as late as 1937, he inquired about his well-being. During the start of World War II, Bloch asked Hitler for help, and was allowed emigrate to the United States after being protected from the Gestapo. Klara Hitler may have gave birth to Adolf Hitler, but her death caused the life of one Jew to be saved.

On this day in 30BC, Cleopatra died. Regarded as one of the most influential leaders in history, the Pharoah met her end under debated circumstances. Some argue she used a cobra known as an asp to bite her, putting her body into a paralysed state which eventually led to death. Others suggest after her capture she was murdered. Most historians agree Cleopatra killed herself, rather than face public humiliation in Rome for her defeat. Her husband, Marc Anthony, had killed himself with his own sword after hearing she was dead. Realising this wasn’t true, he was brought to her, where he died. Cleopatra’s son by Caesar was killed shortly after.

Monday Mystery….I’ll leave it to you Robin

Honestly don’t have the heart to write about murders or disappearances tonight. Every couple of months, somebody famous passes away. The circumstances are always different, but the results are always the same-people queue up on Twitter and Facebook to offer their condolences, like some drunk guy at a bar telling you he’s sorry you lost somebody that mattered. Somewhere deep down, it always seems like an injustice. Whether it’s Palestine or Mandela, it always seems the same people take to the news feed. Every time, I look on in disdain. Not because the person didn’t matter to them. No. Anyone is free to choose who matters in their life. Anybody is free to say what they feel inside of them, and maybe, in fact hopefully; it’s the truth.

I look on in disappointment because in two hours of tweets the person’s memory is cheapened. People write how they are up crying or nearly fainted when they read the news. These people can faint for any cause, it seems. Somewhere out there, the family of that deceased celebrity is suffering. They are going through hell, and most of us don’t know what it feels like to be in that position given it is all in the public eye. Their grief is splashed across the front of newspapers, with the entire content of their hearts chopped down into a punchy headline so you the reader can learn all about their private lives. And for a week you act like you give a damn and maybe buy their book or watch all their films. After that, it’s over. Then you go back to your life and maybe search for a new tragedy. For the families, there is no life to go back to.

When the newspapers stop printing their dead husband’s/mother’s/son’s name, they still have to go on. Their grief isn’t temporary. The hole is permanent. It can’t be fixed by a movie marathon or a Maeve Binchy book collection. They have to endure without that person in their life forever. They will never hear their voice again behind them or listen to them busying about the room next door. We don’t get new movies. Who’s the real loser?

That is why Twitter cheapens our grief. If in the morning you lost someone, can you imagine a hundred million strangers telling you that they meant the world to them? No. You cannot. But try to, even if just for a while. Somewhere in amongst the tweets, the human gets lost. With favourites and retweets in abundance, we lose track of just how monumental an event we are commenting on is. Somebody literally died. They are gone from us, and cannot return. All their hopes, dreams, troubles and prayers are wiped in one second. Everyone they knew on a personal level is torn from the inside out. Some people will never be the same again when they lose somebody.

Tonight, I received news that Robin Williams had passed away. Robin Williams is not my favourite actor. That honour goes to Leonardo DiCaprio. I also love Denzel Washington. Robin would probably be in my top five. I have never met Robin Williams. I did not know Robin Williams. Robin Williams might have liked omelets like I do. He might not have. He may have loved to listen to music. I’d prefer to read or write. Myself and Robin might have been hugely different people. We might have been roughly the same. In another life, we might even have been friends or something.

When I arrived home, I opened my Twitter account to see a storm of tweets were already gathered in front of me, each a slightly different version of the others. For a split-second I stopped to think. I wasn’t angry. Sure I wasn’t happy, but there wasn’t any feeling of disapproval or contempt. I wasn’t cynical about tweets about Robin William’s death. That made me a hypocrite, and I didn’t want to be that, but I was.

It’s impossible to watch a Robin Williams movie and not get caught up in the man that’s there. It doesn’t matter what age you catch him at; he always seems to be wise, funny, helpful, etc. I’d like to think that’s the man Robin Williams was. I’d like to think he was a good man, with a great attitude to life and a message that could inspire us all. Like I said, I didn’t know the man, but I’d wager a bet or two.

For the first time ever the public out-pour of grief doesn’t seem disrespectful. Williams hasn’t been cheapened tonight. He has been elevated. A part of me thinks he would have been cool with our sentiments. He would have smiled and said “thank you”. Tonight feels different to every other celebrity death. It seems to be more important to the world. Robin Williams may be one of the last great actors of our time, and I’m glad he will be remembered so fondly.

I hope my verse is as good as his was….